Lee Cronin, a professor at Glasgow University, is working with a team of researchers to making complex molecules. He and his team want to create ‘downloadable chemistry’.

While attending a conference, there were conversations about 3D printing. This caused Cronin to ponder if he would be able to apply the concept of 3D printing to his work at the molecular level.

3D Printed Drugs

Cronin and his team were able to make a 3D printer, based off the Fab@Home design, that created basic chemical reactions to generate molecules. From The 'Chemputer' that could Print out any Drug (The Guardian) “…If you were looking to make a sugar, for example, you would start with your set of base sugars and mix them together. When we make complex molecules in the traditional way with test tubes and flasks, we start with a smaller number of simpler molecules."

In the near future, Cronin is looking at building simpler drugs such as ibuprofen. Professor Cronin mentioned “Imagine your printer like a refrigerator that is full of all the ingredients you might require to make any dish in Jamie Oliver’s new book.” Professor Cronin then said, "Jamie has made all those recipes in his own kitchen and validated them. If you apply that idea to making drugs, you have all your ingredients, and you follow a recipe that a drug company gives you. They will have validated that recipe in their lab. And when you have downloaded it and enabled the printer to read the software, it will work. The value is in the recipe, not in the manufacture. It is an app, essentially."

If Cronin achieves his goal, drugs could be dispersed all over the world as well as created in the places where they are needed. This is, however, quite far down the road for him and his team, as they are only in the early stages of this project and can only envision what the final printer will look like. However, there is interest in this project -- pharmaceutical companies have inquired to determine what it can do to their business models. He has also been contacted by NATO generals interested in the idea of a portable medicine cabinet stocked with every drug.


How do you see this affecting the pharmaceutical and medical industries?

 

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